10 tips to avoid hiring a toxic employee 

We all know about the talent shortage. Human resources teams, managers and overworked team members are burnt out and ready for resource relief. But, no matter how desperate you might be feeling, make sure that that you avoid the costly mistake of making a wrong hire. Hiring the wrong person – or worst of all, a toxic person – is far more costly than not hiring anyone at all. 

To ensure you recruit the right person for your team, here are our top tips.

  1. Be clear and realistic about the skills and experience you require. No candidate has it all. Unfortunately, there are no unicorns! Identify three or four critical criteria and focus on those, not on an endless wish-list.
  2. Look internally first. Who in your organisation could be trained or developed to be successful in this new role? Internal candidates can often be more productive and profitable appointments in the long run as you already know who they are and how they work. You can always train for skills but never for attitude.  
  3. Hire to build a high-performance team, not just to fill a role. Review the skills and experience of your team members. Identify the gaps and then recruit accordingly. Teams and businesses are most successful when individuals’ strengths and weaknesses are complementary. As they say, the sum of the parts is always greater than the whole. 
  4. Prepare for your interviews. Read the candidate’s CV and LinkedIn profile carefully and review their social media accounts. Facebook and Instagram can give us insights that a resume will not. 
  5. Prepare an interview guide, including behavioural interview questions. Focus on situations across key criteria such as innovation, leadership, teamwork, collaboration, or financial and business acumen, and ask candidates to share examples of their experience.
  6. Conduct reference checks formally and, if possible, informally. Do you know of anyone who might be able to give you an honest appraisal of the candidate’s work style and ethics? For privacy and confidentiality reasons, avoid informal reference checks from individuals who are working at the candidate’s current company. You do not want to put their current role at risk. 
  7. Interview for and observe soft skills. Was the candidate respectful to the receptionist when they arrived? Did they log into the virtual interview on time or were they late? Ask for an example of a time they had to deal with a difficult person and listen carefully to the language they use to describe the situation or person. Is it aggressive and full of blame or empathetic and solutions-focused? 
  8. Include other team members in the interview process and listen to their feedback.  
  9. Remember that the potential candidate is nervous, so make them feel comfortable. When people are relaxed and feel safe, they will share more, which will allow you to find out more about them. 
  10. Finally, don’t be desperate. Do not accept the best of a bad lot. Desperation never leads to good outcomes.